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Ban the Box: State-by-State

The regulatory landscape around Ban the Box legislation changes all the time. In 2020, Hawaii shortened its “lookback” period, California released additional guidance regarding its Fair Chance Act and St Louis joined the growing list of cities with their own Ban the Box law (effective January 1, 2021). To help employers, we’ve created a guide of everything you need to know for 2021, wherever you are in the country.

One in Three American Adults Have a Criminal History

In the past, having a criminal history prevented some potentially great job candidates from being hired, regardless of how long ago the crime took place, how minor the infraction was, or how good of a fit they might be for the role. When you consider that an estimated 70 million Americans—one in three Americans who are of working age—have some kind of criminal history, it’s not difficult to understand how requiring a squeaky-clean record could become problematic for some jobs.

Even People Without Convictions Can Be Discriminated Against

Many criminal background checks fail to distinguish between someone being arrested or charged and actually being convicted. Potential employees are routinely asked on job applications if they’ve “ever been arrested for a serious crime.” Not if they have a conviction history…simply arrested. It’s easy to see how checking “yes” on this box could be used to take some candidates out of the running for a job.

This is exactly the reason why many states and localities are passing laws to protect job hunters who have a criminal record from being immediately disqualified during the hiring process.

What is a “Ban the Box” Law?

A “ban the box” law prohibits employers from requesting a potential employee’s criminal history on a job application in certain states and localities. Some laws forbid a company from asking if the candidate was ever sentenced for a crime until a specific time in the hiring process, such as during an interview or after a conditional offer of employment.

Ban the Box Is Good for Children and Families

Colorado is one of the most recent states with laws requiring employers to ban the box with its Colorado Chance to Compete Act (CCCA). They, like other states that have implemented the ban, found that,

“Previous involvement with the criminal justice system often creates a significant barrier to employment in that applicants with criminal histories are less likely to be considered for an available job when that information is included on an initial job application… Children and families suffer when people with criminal histories are unable to work or work at jobs that are below their potential given their education and skills….”

Additionally, including a criminal history question on an application often results in disparate impact discrimination. Because Latino and African American men are arrested and convicted at a higher rate than Caucasian men, an employment application asking about criminal history has a disproportionate impact on them.

Credit Checks Can Also Be Considered a Discriminatory Act

Several states also have laws that prevent an employer from using a person’s credit history to make employment decisions. A credit history background check can also be lumped under “disparate impact discrimination” as it can have a negative impact on women and minorities. These two groups are more likely to experience bankruptcies or have poor credit reports. Generally, states that have credit check restrictions allow for one if the job in question is for a financial institution or where the applicant would otherwise have access to financial data.

Ban the Box Laws: By States and Cities and Counties

Here’s a quick snap shot of the U.S. and which states have banned the box. For a deeper dive into a specific state, check out the chart below.

state laws for ban the box

State  Municipality  Covered Employers  Notes 
Alabama    No Law   
Alaska  No Law   
Arizona    Now Law   
Arkansas    No Law   
California    Employers with 5+ employees

 

No criminal background check until after a job offer (See recent FAQs)

 

  Compton

 

Contractors doing business with Compton

 

No criminal background check until after a job offer

 

  Los Angeles

 

Any employer with 10+ employees

 

No criminal background check until after a job offer

 

  Richmond

 

Private sector employers with 10+ employees that have contracts with Richmond regardless of where employer is based

 

 
  San Francisco

 

Employers with 5+ employees

 

No criminal background check until after a job offer

 

Colorado    Effective 9/1/19 for employers with 11+ employees; effective on or after 9/1/21 for all employers   
Connecticut    All employers  No criminal history question on job applications with some exceptions

 

  Hartford

 

Contractors doing business with Hartford

 

No background check until after job offer

 

  New Haven

 

Contractors doing business with New Haven

 

No background check until after job offer

 

Delaware    No Law   
District of Columbia    Employers with 11+ employees  No background check until after job offer 
Florida    No Law   
Georgia    No Law

 

 
Hawaii    All private employers  No criminal background check until after job offer. Then, employers may only inquire about felony convictions within the past seven years and five years misdemeanors, excluding periods of incarceration. 
Idaho    No Law   
Illinois    Private employers with 15+ employees  No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview

 

  Chicago

 

Private employers with fewer than 15 employees

 

No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview

 

  Cook County

 

Private employers with fewer than 15 employees

 

No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview

 

Indiana    No Law   
  Indianapolis

 

Contractors doing business with Indianapolis

 

Criminal history questions only after first interview

 

Iowa    No Law   
Kansas    No Law   
Kentucky    No Law

 

 
  Louisville

 

Contractors doing business with Louisville

 

City may end contracts with companies that do not ban the box

 

Louisiana    No Law   
  New Orleans

 

Contractors doing business with New Orleans

 

No criminal history questions on job applications

 

Maine    No Law   
Maryland    No Law   
  Baltimore

 

Employers with 10+ employees

 

No background check until after job offer

 

  Montgomery County

 

Employers with 15+ employees

 

No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview

 

  Prince George’s County

 

Employers with 25+ full-time employees

 

No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview

 

Massachusetts    All private employers

 

No criminal history questions on application. Also bans questions about certain types of crimes later in the hiring process.

 

  Boston

 

Contractors/vendors doing business with Boston

 

 
  Cambridge

 

Contractors/vendors doing business with Cambridge

 

 
  Worcester

 

Contractors/vendors doing business with Worcester

 

 
Michigan    Employers with 15+ employees

 

 
  Detroit

 

Contractors doing business with Detroit when contract is $25,000+

 

No questions about criminal convictions until interview or qualification

 

  Kalamazoo

 

Contractors doing business with Kalamazoo when contract is $25,000+ or those seeking tax abatement

 

Must commit to not use criminal history to discriminate

 

Minnesota    All private employers  No criminal history inquiries on job application with limited exceptions

 

Mississippi    No Law   
Missouri    No Law

 

 
  Columbia

 

All employers in Columbia

 

No criminal history check until after conditional job offer

 

  Kansas City

 

Private employers with six+ employees

 

No criminal history check until after job interview

 

  St. Louis

 

Private employers with 10+ employees

 

No criminal history check until after job interview. When making hiring and promotion decisions based on criminal record, employers must demonstrate that decision is based on all available information. Hiring forms and job advertisements mustn’t exclude applicants based on criminal history. 
Montana    No Law   
Nebraska    No Law   
Nevada    No Law   
New Hampshire    No Law   
New Jersey    Employers with 15+ employees over 20 calendar weeks

 

Preempts local laws

 

New Mexico    All private employers  Can consider a conviction after reviewing an application and discussing employment with the applicant

 

New York    No Law   
  Buffalo

 

Private employers with 15+ employees/contractors doing business with Buffalo

 

No criminal history questions on job applications

 

  New York City

 

All employers with 4+ employees

 

No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer

 

  Rochester

 

All employers with 4+ employees and contractors doing business with Rochester

 

Criminal background check only after initial job interview or conditional job offer

 

  Syracuse

 

City contractors

 

No background checks until after conditional job offer

 

North Carolina    No Law   
North Dakota    No Law   
Ohio    No Law

 

 
Oklahoma    No Law   
Oregon    All private employers

 

Illegal to exclude applicant from an interview solely due to past criminal conviction

 

  Portland

 

Employers with 6+ employees

 

No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer

 

Pennsylvania    No Law

 

 
  Philadelphia

 

All employers with at least one employee in Philadelphia

 

No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer

 

  Pittsburgh

 

Contractors/vendors doing business with Pittsburgh

 

No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified

 

Rhode Island    Employers with 4+ employees  No criminal background check on job applications

 

South Carolina    No Law   
South Dakota    No Law   
Tennessee    No Law   
Texas    No Law   
  Austin

 

Employers with 15+ employees

 

No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer

 

Utah    No Law   
Vermont    All private employers

 

No criminal history questions on job application

 

Virginia  No Law

 

 
Washington    All private employers  No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified

 

  Seattle

 

All employers with 1+ employees

 

Must have a legitimate business reason to automatically exclude applicants with arrest or conviction records

 

  Spokane

 

All private employers

 

No criminal history questions before a job interview

 

West Virginia  No Law

 

 

Wisconsin 

 

No Law 

 

  Madison

 

Contractors doing business with Madison on contracts worth $25,000+

 

No criminal history questions or background checks until after conditional job offer

 

Wyoming 

 

No Law 

 

How Paycor Helps

We’re proud to keep more than 30,000 organizations informed about and compliant with federal and state laws and regulations. Want to see how Paycor can help you mitigate risk? Check out our article on hiring compliance, or talk to a Paycor representative.

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